By Makino Maebaru and Murasaki Shido. Released in Japan as “Kon’yaku Haki Sareta “Kūki” na Watashi, Nariagari no Dan’na-sama ni Totsugimashita” by Mag Garden Novels. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by piyo.
It’s all about looking for the jagged edges. That’s a very good rule of thumb when reading these books, especially the ones written for women that have a tendency to amount to “Cinderella story” or wish fulfillment. It also helps me when I’m trying to get past a beginning that might seem less than ideal. The start of this series is excruciating, with Iris, our heroine, getting dumped by her sneering fiance, mocked by her shallow sister, and sold off to a noble who is seemingly buying her for money by her abusive father. All the while she carries in her inner monologue a refrain of how she’s “dull and plain”, and everyone compares her to air. It’s a good portrayal of an abused noble, but you also want to throttle her. Fortunately, the moment she leaves everything about her life comes up roses. The jagged edges, though, remain throughout, and show off hos this world really is not a very nice place at all.
So yes, Iris has spent her life training to be the wife of the Marquis’ son, but he likes her sweet, blonde sister better, so she is instead dumped on Lucas Stock, a merchant recently made a baron, who wants her to be his wife on paper so that she can train his staff and employees on how to better interact with nobles, as they’re all commoners like he was. She takes to this with aplomb, quickly managing to win over everyone by generally being nice, intelligent, and unlike most other nobles, while still managing to convey how to deal with other nobles anyway. And, of course, she and Lucas gradually come to realize that they quite like this marriage thing, and would not particularly mind if it became genuine, though honestly they’re both too pure for that to happen right away. As for the Marquis’ son and Iris’ sister… let’s just say I’m torn between whether Mikhail is merely a rapist or whether he’s also a murderer.
See what I mean about jagged edges? Everything about Iris’ plotline in this volume is sunshine and roses, showing her learning to love herself and how she blooms when around other people who actually value her. Everything ELSE in this book ranges from vaguely disturbing to downright dark – the scene where Airia, Iris’ sister, is making out in the garden with Mikhail and sees a shoe in the bushes, which he quickly distracts her from, is absolutely chilling. Iris’ lady maid, Kiki, has a fear of nobles that is hinted to be because of physical abuse, and she’s very careful to wear clothing that does not show skin below her neck. Lucas’ benefactors, while happy that he’s made a name for himself, cannot help but emphasize over and over in front of Iris how he was once their servant, and that as far as they are concerned he still is. Meanwhile, Iris holds a food festival.
The book ends with Airia, in a letter, begging her sister for help, though I do not trust little sister one bit. Those jagged edges may be more visible in the next book. Till then, plow past a beginning so cliched I made fun of it on Twitter – there’s a lot more to this than just plain girl has her dreams come true.